When is Hospice and Palliative Care Right for Your Loved One?

When loved ones begin their final, irreversible decline, long term care centers are an important option – but they are just one point along a continuum of care. This month brings a special focus to another option on that continuum: hospice and palliative care.

This recognition of Hospice and Palliative Care Month provides an opportunity to confront some of the difficult choices most of us would rather put off for another time. The reality is that there is only so much an individual can do to assist and provide comfort to an aging spouse or parent, or a declining friend. Sometimes the better and more compassionate option, for the person and ourselves, is to back away and place responsibility in the hands of those who are uniquely skilled to deal with these matters.

Almost 1.6 million people who live with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospice and palliative care providers across the nation, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Those citizens benefit greatly from the expert caring of highly trained professionals, who ensure that patients and families find dignity, respect and love during life’s most difficult journey.

Hospice and palliative care programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. Hospice and palliative care combine the highest levels of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support that families need most when facing the end of life.

Long term care centers focus on improving the health and well-being of those in their care, but hospice helps individuals and their families focus on living despite a terminal diagnosis. Through this specialized quality care, many patients and their families experience more meaningful moments together.

So how do you know when it’s time to consider hospice care for a loved one? According to this article on CareConversations.org, you’ll want to consider hospice when:

  • Your family member has made multiple trips to the emergency room to stabilize a condition.
  • The disease process continues to cause a decline, affecting your family members’ quality of life.
  • Your family member has been admitted to the hospital several times within the last year with the same or worsening symptoms.
  • Your family member no longer wishes to be hospitalized.
  • Your family member (or you, on your family member’s behalf) decides to forgo treatment.

Many patients go to long term care centers after receiving hospice or palliative care services. Both options are part of a process that can be difficult for loved ones. But it’s important to consider the options as early as possible in order to make the right choice at the right time.